by Carolyn Henderson and Sue Ann Kendall
Dr. Jim Richardson, DVM and Milam County regenerative farmer and rancher, explained to the El Camino Real chapter of Texas Master Naturalist about the process he has developed to farm and ranch without chemicals or plowing. The procedure restores overworked dirt into a fertile, moisture-retaining soil that he uses to grow crops that he uses to both sell and feed his animals.
Soil restoration is a growing farming format across the nation. For any members interested in the process, Dr. Richardson recommends the book Dirt to Soil, by Gabe Brown. It is believed that if the process were used across the country, it would reduce the drought problem for farmers significantly.
Dr. Richardson explained that using a no-till disturbs soil much less, which allows water to soak in and not run off. Running heavy equipment across soil to till and fertilize makes the soil compacted. It turns out that the less you disturb soil the more it can soak up, because the spaces between particles of soil can remain (caused by earthworms and other living creatures in the soil).
He pointed out that mulch is another thing that helps—this can be achieved by allowing leftovers from the previous crop to remain, as well as some native vegetation, which can get incorporated into the soil via animal impact. Animal impact also kills off some plant material and incorporates it into the soil to provide additional nutrients. That’s a big reason to allow cattle or other animals to graze harvested fields.
Another practice Richardson recommended is that after you harvest one crop, get another one in there as soon as possible, so it can capture the benefits of sunlight and take them into the soil.
By carefully managing the land to regenerate its nutrients and remain uncompacted, effective rainfall will be able to stores water for use during the drought periods. Mulch is what helps the water stay until it is needed.
The more diverse population on the land the better equipped it will be to deal with whatever comes its way and stay productive, he added.
At the end of his presentation, he shared his philosophy:
If you want to make small changes, change the way you do things. If you want to make big changes, change the way you see things.Jim Richardson, DVM